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The migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard have been voluntarily taken to a military base for support, officials say

<i>Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette/Reuters</i><br/>The 50 migrants who were sent to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts by Florida's governor will be transported to a military base September 16 to receive shelter and humanitarian support. A migrant is pictured here in Massachusetts
Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette/Reuters
The 50 migrants who were sent to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts by Florida's governor will be transported to a military base September 16 to receive shelter and humanitarian support. A migrant is pictured here in Massachusetts

By Kristina Sgueglia, Miguel Marquez, Carolyn Sung and Jason Hanna, CNN

The roughly 50 migrants who were sent by plane to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts by Florida’s governor this week were transported to a military base Friday to receive shelter and humanitarian support, officials said.

The migrants willingly boarded buses Friday morning — arranged by state and local government — that took them from Martha’s Vineyard to Joint Base Cape Cod, officials said.

The migrants had been flown to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — part of a series of moves by Republican governors to transport migrants to liberal enclaves to protest what they say are inadequate federal efforts on southern border security. Martha’s Vineyard had not been expecting the group, and DeSantis’ move was sharply denounced by the White House, migrants’ advocates and Democratic officials.

At a church where they had been staying on Martha’s Vineyard, migrants cheered Friday morning when they heard the Massachusetts government would shelter them at the Cape Cod military base, and embraced each other and locals before boarding the buses.

A volunteer helping the migrants was among those hugging them, and was in tears as they departed.

“This was another person’s — multiple peoples’ — really difficult moment in their life, and they shared it with us with such grace and affection and humor. And to be welcomed into their lives and into their hearts was a gift,” Lisa Belcastro said.

A group of civil rights attorneys working with the migrants said their stories are “heartbreaking — and infuriating.” Many of the migrants went to a hospital in need of care upon their arrival to the island on Wednesday.

Some of these migrants were sent to Martha’s Vineyard even though they have immigration hearings scheduled that are nowhere near Massachusetts, the group said. Migrants released from government custody often move to other cities in the US as they go through their immigration proceedings.

“This cowardly political stunt has placed our clients in peril,” the Lawyers for Civil Rights group said in a news release Friday. “Some now have immigration hearings as early as Monday thousands of miles away.”

Some attorneys from the group accompanied the migrants on the buses headed to the Cape Cod base.

The help that awaits the migrants on Cape Cod

Joint Base Cape Cod — already an emergency shelter designated by the state emergency management agency — is set up to provide “a safe temporary accommodation appropriate for the needs of families and individuals,” the governor’s office said in a release.

The migrants “will be housed in dormitory-style spaces at JBCC, with separate spaces accommodating both individuals and families,” and families will not be separated, the release reads.

They will have access to services including legal, health care, food, hygiene kits, and crisis counseling, according to Baker’s office.

Baker, a Republican, lauded a temporary shelter that the Martha’s Vineyard community set up for the migrants in “a moment of urgent need.”

“We are grateful to the providers, volunteers and local officials that stepped up on Martha’s Vineyard over the past few days to provide immediate services to these individuals,” Baker said in a news release.

White House denounces DeSantis’ move

DeSantis’ decision to arrange the migrants’ flight to Massachusetts was one of two high-profile transports sent north by southern Republican governors this week. On Thursday, two buses of migrants sent from Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott arrived outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in the nation’s capital.

Texas started busing migrants to Washington this spring. Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey followed suit this year, and the two states have since sent thousands of migrants to Washington. Abbott has expanded Texas’ effort to include New York City and Chicago.

The White House on Thursday denounced this week’s moves by DeSantis and Abbott. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accused the governors of using migrants as “political pawns” and said their actions amounted to a “cruel, premeditated political stunt.”

US Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins will speak with members of the Department of Justice about DeSantis sending the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, though she did not yet have enough information to say whether he broke any laws in doing so, she told reporters on Thursday.

Despite Wednesday’s unannounced arrivals on Martha’s Vineyard, some residents of the island worked quickly to provide some key services.

“Our island jumped into action putting together 50 beds, giving everyone a good meal, providing a play area for the children, making sure people have the healthcare and support they need,” Massachusetts state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, a Democrat who represents the island, wrote on Twitter. “We are a community that comes together to support immigrants.”

Tens of thousands of dollars were donated to help the community, Edgartown Town Administrator James Hagerty told CNN Friday.

Hagerty said overall the “outpour was tremendous” and reiterated the island community answered the call to help when migrants arrived without notice earlier this week.

“Sometimes we’re alone and unafraid out here, but we understand the path of travel and we understand we’re a community that ultimately wants to help people,” Hagerty said.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Bob Crowley, Maria Santana, Amy Simonson, Priscilla Alvarez and Devan Cole contributed to this report.

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